Category: Weird Articles
Published on Friday, 11 October 2013 00:00
Bruce has been under my care since 21 June when I found her helplessly crawling around a box in my backyard. She is a microbat weighing only 8 grams, and while I don't know what species of microbat she is, I have a good guess that she might be a Bumblebee bat, one of the smallest mammals in the world. This is the story of me and the tiny bat I grew to love with all my heart.
Adventure time, c'mon grab your friends. We'll go to very distant lands. With Bruce the Bat and Cheryl The Human, the fun will never end, it's adventure time!
On 21 June, I was having my breakfast in the dining room before leaving for work when I saw my Burmese maid peering in disgust at something in the backyard. My mother asked her what was it, but she had trouble explaining as she does not really know how to speak English. So I jumped up and went out. She pointed to a transparent box we use to store tools, pesticide cans and such, and when I looked, I got the shock of my life.
There, sitting on my dog's mattress in the box was a gigantic, hairy spider that resembled a tarantula! As my maid went to get the broom, I observed it more intently and realized it was just a teensy weensy little bat. My maid came out with the broom and lifted it above her head about to smack it to death and I shouted at her to stop. I got a cardboard box from the kitchen, laid some rags in it, picked up the mattress the bat was on and it crawled into the cardboard box. I quickly took it out of the sun and much to my mother's lame protests about bringing a bat into the house as they are “evil”, I took the box up to my room.
I filled a saucer with clean water and directed the bat to it. The bat sensing that it's near water, immediately jumped into the saucer and thirstily gulped it down. It also looked emaciated, but I had no idea what it fed on. Fruits? Insects? Blood?
I remembered that there was a box of mealworms in the basement where we keep our arowanas, so I got one out of the box, cut it up in small pieces and tried feeding it to the bat with a tweezer. It sniffed at the chopped worm and turned away. I threw the rest of the chopped worm pieces away and cut up some apples for it. It ate the apple pieces... or at least just held it in its mouth and kept sucking at it, so I left a few apple bits in the box and rushed off to the office.
I uploaded the bat's photo on my facebook page and asked if anyone could adopt and take care of it, at least until it grows up and learns how to fly then it can be released back into the wild. I was under the impression given its miniscule size that it was a baby fruit bat which dropped out of its nest. I also thought that it was a male bat so I named it Bruce, after Bruce Wayne a.k.a Batman.
A friend of mine found someone who was interested in fostering Bruce and I drove over to hand the cardboard box to him with brief instructions to feed it pet's milk through a syringe. I said my goodbyes to Bruce and went on my way, a little bit sad but relieved that I did not have to find time in my busy schedule to take care of it.
2 Weeks Later...
I received a text from Bruce's new foster daddy requesting if I could babysit Bruce for two weeks because he had been called back for reservist. After adopting Bruce out to him, for 2 weeks, I was stalking his facebook and instagram pages for updates of Bruce. I agreed, delighted that I could see Bruce once again, and Bruce was driven over to my house, this time in a cage lined with sawdust and dried leaves. I was happy that Bruce's foster daddy was so nice, and I found out from him that Bruce is a female bat. He passed me the cage with a snoozing Bruce in it and went along his way.
I dutifully fed Bruce milk three times daily since she refused to eat any kind of fruits or insects that I cut up for her. During the weekdays, she would travel with me to the office so that she need not skip her mid-day meal. As each day passed, I grew more and more attached to her. She was the sweetest little thing I have ever came across. She would automatically climb into my palm whenever I reach into the cage for her, and whenever she had to pee/poo, she would start crawling around my hand trying to find a way off so that she does not relieve herself on my hand. What an adorable little darling!
She had all kinds of weird sleeping antics. She would sometimes hang upside down from a figurine in her cage, or she would be lying spreadeagled on a small pink bunny plush that I gave her, or she would be tucked up in a curled up dried leaf. Once when I woke up and prepared a syringe of milk to feed Bruce, I found her missing from her cage! I frantically searched the cage and found that she somehow managed to burrow underneath the sawdust and cotton balls, and was happily dozing away. Nowadays, she sleeps on a towel I hang in her cage or in a little tunnel covered with black cloth that I made for her.
I dreaded having to return Bruce to her foster daddy after he came back from reservist because I developed a bond with her, I knew I had to if he asked since I was the one who did not want the responsibility of taking care of her in the first place. But 2 weeks passed, and 3 weeks, then 4 weeks. Bruce's foster daddy did not contact me to collect Bruce back! Either that, or he did messaged me informing me he's back but there was a period of time where I did not have a handphone because someone stole my crappy-ass iphone4S.
I decided to do more research on bats and their behavioral patterns since I was to be Bruce's new foster momma. I realized that bats only feed during dusk and dawn, so I limited Bruce's feedings to only twice a day. And while Bruce had evidently became a lot chubbier ever since I found her, she was not growing larger at all, and I deduced that she was actually an adult bat which is incredibly tiny. After looking up a few hundred different species of bats on the internet, I managed to find a species of bat which resembled and fitted Bruce's description; that is the Bumblebee Bat or also known as Kitti's Hog-Nosed Bat. The Bumblebee Bat is disputably the world's smallest mammal. It is an insectivore and also an endangered species that is normally found in Thailand and Burma.
While Bruce was stretching her wings one day, I noticed a slight break in the middle portion of her right wing. I panicked and took to the internet again. I read accounts of how bats with broken wings are put to sleep because the break can't be mended. I was devastated. She would never be able to soar freely in the night ever again because of that small little broken bone. Of course, putting her to sleep never crossed my mind. The broken bone did not seem to hurt her as it had already healed in a different position and I was willing to care for her as long as she lived. Look at it this way; putting Bruce to sleep because she has a broken bone is like having someone euthanized after he broke his fingers.
Bat At The Vet
On 23 September, I took emergency leave to rush Bruce to the vet. She had completely stopped eating or drinking water since 20 September. I was so worried that I could not sleep over the weekends. She was rapidly losing weight and growing increasingly lethargic by the second. And even though she had not eaten anything for 3 days, her stomach remained extremely bloated. She kept lifting up her tail flap and exerting so hard that her entire body vibrated. I suspected a serious case of constipation, and I had to do something because if she continued starving herself and not being able to pass anything out, she would die. Like Elvis Presley, or so they say.
I called up a number of vets and finally found one located at Jalan Kayu which agreed to see a bat. The vet suggested a dose of liquid laxative to be included in her meal which I would have to force feed. The vet was bewildered as well to learn that Bruce does not want to eat any insects at all and told me to blend milk with mealworms.
I went home and minced up mealworms to a fine pulp, mixed it with milk and the liquid laxative. It was almost impossible to feed her even the tinest drop as she refused to open her mouth and just sat there motionless with her eyes closed. I hardened my heart and gently pried open her mouth, slowly but surely forcing her to swallow the liquid. I was at it for 2 hours and was almost reaching the end of the syringe when the opening got stuck with all the accumulated worm guts. I squeezed harder and the pressure caused the liquid to explode out of the syringe, spraying the worm milkshake all over Bruce and MY FACE, some of it even got into my eyes and mouth. The stench was unbearable, it smelled like an unholy concoction of farts, diarrhea and vomit. However, I hastily hurried to clean Bruce up first for fear she would catch a cold. As I was wiping her with cotton buds dipped in warm water, she suddenly lifted her tail flap and I noticed she was straining to force out a tiny, hardened poo. OH PRAISE IN THE HIGHEST TO THE GOD OF BATS!!!
I watched on in glee, still with bug guts dripping down my face, and silently cheered her on. When she got tired from straining too much and stopped, I used a cotton bud to wipe it off her butt. Only when I made sure that she was comfortably tucked into the ear of my huge bunny plushie and sleeping soundly did I proceed to wash the worm juice off my face.
I stayed awake for a little while more with her sleeping inside the ear of the bunny next to me. I constantly checked on her to make sure she was ok (and still breathing). When I was about to turn in for the night, I lifted her out of the bunny's ear to transfer her to her cage. To my horror, I found a huge growth on her tail flap to which I thought to be a humongous tumor. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that the “growth” was actually a large ball of feces which she passed out when she was sleeping and got stuck on her tail.
OH SHITBALL, WHO ART ON TAIL, HALLOWED BE THY NAME!
Needless to say, I was ecstatic that the laxative worked so well. Bruce recovered very quickly and resumed being her energetic, sweet, little self.
Bat-shit Crazy Over Bruce
All these months that I have spent taking care of Bruce is not easy. She is very playful and can be very difficult at times when I am trying to feed her and she just keeps hopping all around my bed. When I stayed overnight at a hotel for a birthday celebration, I had to sneak her in so that she would not miss her meals. She still has not taken to eating solid food yet, so her meals would require me to tediously cut up fresh mealworms with a pair of scissors till my hand throbs with pain and the mealworms are reduced to a sticky paste. Even then when she is slurping her worm milkshake down, she would spit out any of the mealworm skin that got into her mouth. What a spoilt little bat.
Here's the worst part; bats like her have a lifespan of 20 – 25 years. Assuming she is a young bat, I will have to take care of her until I'm well into my 40s. SAY WHAAAAAT! Also, who can I entrust her to if I were to travel overseas? It's not as there are pet hotels for bats, and I don't think anyone would know how to handle her, her temperament and her daily diet. That means I can't go overseas for as long as she's in my care!
But when she crawls into my enclosed palm after having a heavy meal and promptly falls asleep, or when her eyelids flutter shut when I stroke her tiny head, or when she slightly tilts her head to the side when I scratch behind her ears, or when she gazes up at me with her black, shiny eyes whenever I talk, or when she squeaks with joy at seeing me after I come back home at night, I remember everything worth toiling for.
UPDATE 13 Nov 2013*
Bruce peacefully passed away at 3.20 am today comfortably nestled in my hand. She didn't eat anything in the morning, and when I returned home close to 2am, she scrambled around in her cage to welcome me back as per usual with a soft squeak. She refused her grub again but took a little drink of water. I then decided to watch a few episodes of Parks & Recreation, craddling her in my hand which she loves to fall asleep in. I decided to hit the sack around 3 am and I gently stroked Bruce to wake her up but she didn't lift her head at all. I then realized how limp and lifeless she was, and her heartbeat was growing weaker by the second. With tears in my eyes, I stroked her head again and she opened her eyes fully and gazed at me. I kissed her on her little head, repeatedly told her that I love her, that she is a really good girl, and I wished her goodnight. She closed her eyes and within a few seconds, she was out like a light.
In all the years I have been alive, I have never thought that I could develop a bond so strong with a tiny animal, let alone a wild one too at that. Bruce was the sweetest little thing ever, she was affectionate, loving, gentle and always so bubbly, nothing like what you would expect from a wild animal. After my beloved Honey passed away, I was so adamant on not allowing any other animals enter my life for I was so fixated on having Honey as "my only baby", then little Bruce barged into my life and I learned how to love again. Over a short span of a few months, Bruce has unexpectedly brought me a lot of happiness and I will cherish that for a long long time. Goodnight baby girl, sweet dreams, momma loves you.